Sunday, November 6, 2011

Discovering Rastafari!

Where: National Museum of Natural History

When: through November 13, 2011

Before I went to see this exhibit, I had a vague notion that Rastafarians were Jamaicans who smoked pot, listened to reggae music and wore colorful clothing.  Now, I know that these ideas are correct, but there's more to the Rastafarians than the picture these ideas might convey.

Rastafarianism started in Jamaica in the 1930s.  The Rastafarians are followers of Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.  Ras Tafari was Selassie's pre-coronation name.  These followers believe that Selassie is divine.  Although I can't subscribe to that idea, I will say his warning to the League of Nations after Italy's invasion of Ethiopia that the Fascists were a threat to the world was prescient, to say the least.

In the early 20th century, Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican, made known his idea that all black people had a common identity, struggle and destiny.  He believed that the Ethiopians victory over Italy was a symbol of the freedom for which all black people were striving.

Reggae emerged in Jamaica after Selassie's visit; Bob Marley became the genre's best-known artist and brought international attention to the Rastafari culture.

There are videos of Rastafarians talking about their way of life: why they wear dreadlocks, how the use of marijuana is part of their religious ceremonies, their vegetarianism and the distinctive dialect that sets them apart from other Jamaicans.

Verdict: This small show is packed with information; I learned a lot in a short time.  It's well worth a visit - you'll find yourself saying, "I never knew that..."

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